11. Psalms: Finding Forgiveness and Restoration
(Psalms 32 and 51)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (36:03)

King David (1858-1864) by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
Dante Gabriel Rosetti (1828-1882), "King David" (1858-1864), watercolor on paper, 279 x 127 mm, from "The Seed of David". Tate Gallery. Larger image.
We can come away from the defeat and shame of sin feeling like a prizefighter who has been battered and humiliated. These psalms deal with repentance and God's forgiveness and restoration. How is it that a man or woman can love God at one moment and then commit a sin in the next? When we sin against one we love, there is a wound in our soul -- that is why sin is such a struggle for a Christian. It's not something that we can just shrug off -- that is if we truly love God.

We've seen the joy and extent of God's forgiveness in Psalm 103. However, the psalms in this chapter focus on the anguish of sin. What should we do when we sin? David was a great lover of God but also a great sinner. Let's examine two of his psalms.

Psalm 32 - Blessed Is the One Whose Sin Is Forgiven

Psalm 32 is attributed to David, though we're not told the circumstances. It could relate to the Bathsheba-Uriah incident that Psalm 51 clearly references, or to another time in David's life when he struggled with sin. It is termed "a maskil." The root of the word denotes insight or wisdom, so this may be a psalm of wisdom, though we're not sure. What we are sure of is that in this psalm is a good deal of insight into the human psyche and the workings of self-deception and guilt within the soul.


The structure of the psalm seems to be:

  • Blessedness of the forgiven person (1-2)
  • The weight of guilt (3-4)
  • The relief of confession and forgiveness (5)
  • The protection of God for those who seek him (6-7)
  • An admonition from God to be pliable and not stubborn (8-10)
  • A concluding praise (11)

Blessed Is the Forgiven Person (32:1-2)

David begins his sonnet of guilt and forgiveness with a comment on how fortunate the forgiven person really is:

"1Blessed is he
whose transgressions (pesha´) are forgiven,
whose sins (hattā´t) are covered.
2Blessed is the man
whose sin (`āwōn) the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit." (32:1-2)

David uses several synonyms for sin and guilt in Psalms 32 and 51, each with its own flavor:

  • "Transgression" (pesha´) means "rebellion, revolt," designating those who reject God's authority.1
  • "Sin" (hattā´t and hēt´) from the root hātā´ that means to miss a mark or miss the way.2
  • "Iniquity" (`āwōn), is "infraction, crooked behavior, perversion, iniquity, etc." from a root that means "to bend, twist, distort."3
  • "Deceit" (NIV, NRSV) or "guile" (KJV) is remiyyâ, "deceit, fraud."4

We sometimes try to rationalize and minimize our "weaknesses" and "mistakes." But David calls them for what they are -- rebellion, revolt, iniquity. David also uses a pair of synonyms for forgiveness in verse 1:

  • Forgiven (nāśā´), "lift, carry, take." Here the emphasis is on "taking away, forgiveness, or pardon of sin, iniquity and transgression." Sin can be forgiven and forgotten because it is taken up and carried away.5
  • Covered (kāsā), "cover, conceal, hide." It is probably the meaning "hide" that leads to the sense "forgive."6

Given how sinful we can sometimes be, David is reflecting upon God's grace, his willingness to forgive. The Apostle Paul cites these verses as speaking "of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works" (Romans 4:6-8). Is there genuine grace in the Old Testament? Oh, yes!

The Agony of Guilt (32:3-4)

How miserable we are when we try to wriggle away from our sins and avoid dealing with them:

"3When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night
your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer. Selah." (32:3-4)

Why do we do this? The clue is found in verse 2:

"Blessed is the man ... in whose spirit is no deceit." (32:2b)

It is this self-deceit in our inner person that is so self-destructive. We might know deep down that we've done something wrong, but at the surface level we rationalize our actions, refusing to admit the depth of our guilt. The result David describes from personal experience in verses 3 and 4 -- a physical and emotional drain that takes its toll on the life. The key is to apply truth to the self-deceit. That is what the Word does for us, what pastors and counselors do in public exhortation and private counsel. When we apply lies to mask our sin, the result is ultimately unsatisfying. There is no secular substitute for forgiveness. The inner soul of a human being cries out for relief from guilt at some level.

The Freedom of Confession (32:5)

If this was the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah, then Nathan the prophet was the one God used to pierce David's wall of self-deceit with the truth (2 Samuel 12:3-15), like you might lance an infected boil. Whatever sin and guilt it was that was causing David inner turmoil, he finally found release through confession.

"Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, 'I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD' --
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin. Selah." (32:5)

David uses three synonyms for confession:

  • "Acknowledge" is yāda`, "notice, observe." In the Hiphil stem this word has the causative connotation, "let someone know something, inform, announce, make known."7
  • "Not cover up," that is, not to pretend it didn't happen or wasn't important.
  • "Confess" is yādā, "to acknowledge or confess sin." We've seen this verb often in our studies of praise psalms, since it is translated "praise, give thanks, thank," in the sense of to acknowledge or confess God's character and works.8

In a reaction to the Catholic practice of confession and absolution, many Protestants have let the pendulum swing far in the other direction, imagining that they have no need of confession or a confessor. Yes, we can and should confess our sins to God. But confessing our sins to a godly Christian leader can also help bring healing to the soul:

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5:16)
Q1. (Psalm 32:2-5) How does self-deceit operate with sin to enslave us? How does confession enable us to get free from sin? Why do we sometimes resist the truth about ourselves? What does it take to get us to see truth sometimes?




You Are My Hiding Place (32:6-7)

Now that sin is confessed and dealt with, the tenor of the psalm turns to an acknowledgement of God as Savior and Protector:

"Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you
while you may be found." (32:6a)

David urges praying to the Lord "while you may be found," implying that there are definite times when God is near and accessible to us, and times when because of our sin or hardness we just are unable or unwilling to come to him. We must take advantage of the opportunity to draw close to him. A few centuries later, Isaiah wrote:

"Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)

When we do make peace with God, then we have his promise of protection:

"6bSurely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.
7You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. " (32:6b-7)

I've heard skeptics disparage the concept of God as a Protector as a crutch for the weak. But this comes from an arrogance that has never faced the "mighty waters" of life, the overwhelming enemies. In chapter 6 we examined psalms of protection, especially Psalm 91:1 that addresses, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High." Here "shelter, secret place" (sēter) is the same word as "hiding place" in 32:7, from sātar, "hide, conceal," with the idea of protection.9

The shouts or "songs of deliverance" in verse 7 that surround us are what you would expect in the camp of the victorious army, not in a fear-filled hovel. God both protects us and encourages our faith.

A Call to Teachability rather than Stubbornness (32:8-11)

We have heard the psalmist's voice. But now God speaks through David a promise and an admonition:

"8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
9Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
10Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD's unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him." (32:8-10)

Once the Lord has cleansed us from guilt and sin, and brought us into his protective care, he wants to teach us and instruct us. He uses the metaphor of a stubborn horse or mule that will only come to their master when forced to by a bit and bridle. Don't be like that, the Lord says, let me teach you. Let my "unfailing love" (ḥesed) surround you. Don't resist me. Sin causes us to run away from God, to "kick against the goads" (Acts 26:14). Relax, let your rebellion and sin go, and hear his words of instruction in a safe place. The psalm concludes with a call to praise:

"Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!" (32:11)

Psalm 51 - Create in Me a Clean Heart, O Lord

Now we come to the classic psalm of repentance, confession, and plea for pardon.

Setting the Scene (2 Samuel 11-12)

The ascription to Psalm 51 reads, "For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba," a story of humble origins, a rise to glory, self-indulgence, moral corruption, and finally David's restoration to the God that he loved.

When David's nemesis King Saul finally dies and David is crowned king, he begins as a righteous ruler. But power and wealth take their toll on his moral compass. One day from the height of his palace, he watches as Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, one of his loyal warriors, bathes on her rooftop. In lust he calls her to the palace and she becomes pregnant. When he can't blame her pregnancy on her husband, he has her husband killed.

One day God sends Nathan the prophet who tells him the simple story of a poor man being cheated by a rich man out of the little ewe lamb that he loves. Enraged, David says, "The man deserves to die."

Nathan lifts a bony finger, points directly at the corrupt King, says with an even voice, "You are that man," and pronounces the Lord's judgment upon him. This shocks David out his denial and cover-up.

Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD."
Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die." (2 Samuel 12:13-14)

The Lord punishes David for his sin, a Father's stern discipline you might call it, but he forgives the sin that had become a wedge between David and his God and restores him to fellowship. The Lord draws him close and David, now chastened, responds.


Here is the structure of Psalm 51:

  1. Pleading for God's mercy (1-2)
  2. Confessing and acknowledging sin (3-5)
  3. Hungering for a pure heart once more (6-12)
  4. Resolving to declare God's grace (13-15)
  5. Offering the sacrifice of a contrite heart (16-17)
  6. Praying for Jerusalem's prosperity (18-19)

Pleading for God's Mercy (51:1-2)

"1Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin." (51:1-2)

David begins by calling out for mercy. Why? Because he recognizes that God's revealed character is one of love and compassion. From the time of Moses, God has revealed himself as:

"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." (Exodus 34:6)

God owes David no favors; David realizes he is bankrupt. So he begins his prayer:

"Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion." (51:1)

We've seen most of these words before:

  • "Have mercy" (ḥānan) means "be gracious, pity ... a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need." Here it is a plea to Yahweh to "be gracious to me."10 David asks for this mercy in accordance with (that is, on the basis of) God's well-known character qualities of steadfast love and compassion.
  • "Unfailing love" (NIV), "lovingkindness" (KJV), and "steadfast love" (NRSV) translate the common Hebrew noun ḥesed, which includes the ideas love, faithfulness, good-heartedness, kindness.11
  • "Compassion" (NIV), "tender mercies" (KJV), and "mercy" (NRSV) represent the Hebrew noun raḥămîm, "tender mercy, compassion, deep love."4

David knows he doesn't deserve forgiveness, so he calls on God's character of mercy. He knows God is like this, so he prays with faith. Here is David's request:

"... Blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin." (51:1b-2)

This is Spirit-inspired poetry, so in keeping with Hebrew poetic style of synoptic parallelism where two or more lines repeat the same idea, David makes his request with three synonyms for forgiveness and three synonyms for sin.

Blot out transgressions
Wash away iniquity
Cleanse sin

We looked at synonyms for sin in Psalm 32:1-2 above. Now let's examine the synonyms for pardon.

  • "Blot out" (māḥā) means "wipe, wipe out."13 The word is used for blotting out the inhabitants of the earth in the flood and erasures in ancient leather scrolls made by washing or expunging. Here and in verse 9 the word seems to suggest "removing a stain."
  • "Wash away" (NIV, kābas) or "wash thoroughly" (KJV, NRSV) means "wash, be washed, perform the work of a fuller," that is "to make stuffs clean and soft by treading, kneading and beating them in cold water."14 The same verb is found in verse 7b: "Wash me and I will be whiter than snow." The stain of sin is deep and David recognizes his need for radical and deep washing.
  • "Cleanse" (ṭāhēr) means "be pure, be clean." The word is used of wind sweeping the skies clear and the purifying of silver. It is used of moral purity as well as the ritual purity of the Levites and of holy vessels in the tabernacle.15 The adjective formed from this verb is used in verse 10 where David asks for a "pure heart" or a "clean heart."

David asks God for a full pardon -- and cleansing of his character -- based on God's merciful nature. It is a bold and very hopeful prayer prayed by a desperately wounded sinner longing to be restored to fellowship with his God.

Confessing and Acknowledging Sin (51:3-5)

We've considered the importance of repentance and confession in Psalm 32 above. Here in Psalm 51, David does not hide or minimize his sin.

"3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil16 in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
5Surely I was sinful (`āwōn) at birth,
sinful (hēt´) from the time my mother conceived me.
6Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place." (51:3-6)

Notice verse 4:

"Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight."

Does this mean that David's sins against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah were meaningless, inconsequential? No, not at all. But David recognizes that the greatest sin of all is against the Lord that he purports to love. When he sins, he is flaunting his rebellion in God's face. Yes, we can sin against people and need to make these sins right (Matthew 5:23). But our sin is even more against our heavenly Father. It is that breach that must be healed at all costs.

In verses 5 and 6 when David talks about being sinful from before birth, is David claiming that Original Sin made him do it? Is he excusing himself in that he just can't help sinning because he is "only human." I don't think so. Rather, he is affirming that he is sinful through and through. He is acknowledging the awfulness of his sin in the clearest possible way by using these various synonyms of sin that describe its convolutions of rebellion, twistedness, missing the way, and wickedness.

Q2. (Psalm 51:3-6) When David says, "Against you only I have sinned" (4a) is he minimizing his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah? What does he mean by this? When he mentions his sinfulness from before birth is he excusing himself or blaming Original Sin? What does he mean by this?




Hungering for Fellowship Once More (51:6-12)

David has painted his iniquity in clear colors. Now he begins to contrast his own sinfulness with what God desires. He looks within. Sinfulness is not primarily in one's actions, but in one's heart.

"Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place." (51:6)

In verse 6 David speaks of "the inner parts" (NIV), "the inward parts" (KJV), "the inward being" (NRSV).17 It is this inner person who must be converted and cleansed and discipled. Our actions (when we are not putting on an act for others) flow from this inner person, from our heart of hearts. Jesus taught:

"For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34)
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matthew 15:19)

Remember the danger of "deceit" hiding in the spirit in Psalm 32:2? Now sadder and wiser, David calls on God for "truth in the inner parts" and "wisdom in the inmost place" (51:6).

He offers a prayer for deep cleansing:

"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." (51:7)

"Cleanse" (NIV) or "purge" (KJV) translate a word that denotes a cleansing or purifying ceremony during which sin is done away with.18 Hyssop is a small plant that grows on walls, probably marjoram in the mint family. It was used in purification ceremonies to apply blood and water.19 David is calling upon God himself, not just a priest, to cleanse him through and through to remove his deeply ingrained sin. If God cleanses him, if God washes him, then he will be "whiter than snow."

While he has been separated from God he has withered. Now he longs for the joy of the Lord once again:

"Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice." (51:8)
"Restore to me the joy of your salvation." (51:12a)

Contrary to those who cynically perceive Christianity as a guilt-driven religion, God doesn't desire us to live with guilt, but to enjoy forgiveness and full fellowship with him. Here David prays for joy to replace his misery and "the bones you have crushed" (51:8b).

In verse 12a, the word "restore" (shûb), "turn back, return," carries the idea of "give back, restore"16 David has known the joy of God's salvation and rescue before. Now he longs for this joy in fellowship to be restored to him once more. It is his earnest prayer.

Have you lost the "joy" of your salvation? Have you become somewhat distant from God? Have you taken God for granted? Or perhaps have you never really gotten to know him. God wants to restore the joy to you that is your birthright as a Christian. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit's work in your life (Galatians 5:22-23). Call out to him in repentance and receive the joy God desires for you.

The Longing for a Pure Heart (51:10, 12)

David also prays for a pure heart and a willing spirit.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (51:10)

"and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (51:12b)

David uses two interesting words in his prayer in verse 10 -- "create" and "pure." "Create" (bārā´) in this verse carries the connotation of "to initiate something new."21 "Pure" (NIV) or "clean" (KJV) comes from ṭāhēr which we saw in 51:2, "to cleanse," used of ritual or moral purity and of the pureness of the unalloyed gold of the temple furniture.22 Now the word describes the heart David longs for.

But isn't he asking for too much? David has been a slave to lust, drunk with power, stained by murder. How can he now pray for a pure heart? Isn't it too late? No. Can we be pure again once we've been corrupted? Yes.

Jesus taught us, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matthew 5:8). Peter observed, "He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9). God spoke to Peter, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean" (Acts 10:15). God is in the heart purification business. The author of Hebrews wrote:

"How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14)

Do you feel unforgiven? Unforgivable? Jesus died for your sins and he desires to forgive you, no matter what you have done. Pray this prayer with David:

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (51:10)

The second part of verse 10 is a prayer for God to renew (ḥādash, "repair, renew, rebuild"23) a "right" (KJV, NRSV, kûn) or "steadfast" (NIV) spirit, "established, prepared, made ready, fixed, certain, right."24

In verse 12b he prays for a "willing spirit" (NIV, NRSV) or to be upheld by God's "free spirit" (KJV). The adjective nādīb, "noble, willing, inclined," is from the root nādab, "make willing, incite, an uncompelled and free movement of the will unto divine service or sacrifice."25 Oh, for a spirit that longs to serve God, a heart that is inclined to him!

Q3. (Psalm 51:10-12) How is it possible to have a "pure heart" after great sin? What does a "pure heart" consist of? What is the relationship between a "pure heart" (Psalm 51:10) and a "united" or "undivided heart" (Psalm 86:11)? Who purifies the heart? What is the process?




Do Not Take Your Holy Spirit from Me (51:11)

Now David prays against his great fear:

"Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me." (51:11)

When David was just a boy, King Saul had sinned and rebelled against God. Shortly after this, the Prophet Samuel had come to his father's farm, directing that all Jesse's sons appear before him:

"So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.... Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul...." (1 Samuel 16:13-14)

The Spirit of God had left Saul and come upon David. So David is terrified that in his sin this would happen to him as well, that God's Spirit will desert him. But he repents and trusts God for the answer to his prayer.

Resolving to Declare God's Grace (51:13-15)

Now David looks forward to the answer to his prayer and how he will serve God.

"13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
14Save me from bloodguilt,26 O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise." (51:13-15)

Restored and forgiven, he sees himself once again serving the Lord -- teaching, singing, praising. Note that he is not bargaining with God, but anticipating and promising to God what he will do. I don't see this so much as a vow as a vision of the future.

Offering the Sacrifice of a Contrite Heart (51:16-17)

Now David compares true repentance to ritual sacrifice.

"You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings." (51:16-17)

Though Israel had a well-developed sacrificial system designed to atone for sin, too often people just went through the motions of religion without real repentance, without a genuine desire for change, without a real love for God. Across the Old Testament you see a recognition that it is an inner obedience and submissive spirit that God desires, not the outward rituals (1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:11; Micah 6:6-9).

We Christians also have developed rituals through which we can be absolved from sin. It may be formal confession and absolution by a priest or pastor, or by praying a particular prayer. Confession is important in this process (James 5:16). But whatever shape it takes, God is not looking for outward religious action but for heart repentance and change. In Psalm 51, David fully realizes and celebrates this fact.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise." (51:17)

"The sacrifices of God" (NIV, KJV) or "the sacrifice acceptable to God" (NRSV) could also be translated, "My sacrifice, O God" (NIV, NRSV footnote). "Broken" (shābar) is used figuratively here of a broken heart.

"Contrite" is dākă, a by-form of the verb dk´, which also means "to crush," and of dûk, "to pound, beat." The verb is consistently used of one who is physically and emotionally crushed because of sin or the onslaught of an enemy.27 Together, the broken and contrite heart of verse 17 "describe the condition of profound contrition and awe experienced by a sinful person who becomes aware of the divine presence."28

Until our hearts break with sorrow at our sin, we are not quite ready for forgiveness. So often we are sad at being caught or exposed, but not sad at hurting the God who loves us or injuring his reputation by our sins. Nathan had told David that his sin had "made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt" (2 Samuel 12:14). Many conversions these days seem to lack the deep repentance that rends the heart (Joel 2:13). It is not religion, but a relationship that has been injured and must be restored. "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, " David cries (51:4). Oh, that our sins would break our hearts!

Q4. (Psalm 51:17) How does one achieve a "broken and contrite heart"? What are the earmarks of this condition? How does this differ from "being sorry" for a sin? How does humility relate to this condition?




Praying for Jerusalem's Prosperity (51:18-19)

Experiencing the Psalms, by Ralph F. Wilson
Now all the lessons are also available together in e-book and printed book formats.

The psalm concludes with a prayer for Jerusalem.

"In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar." (51:18-19)

Assuming that the earlier part of the psalm was penned by David, these last two verses could have been added after the fall of Jerusalem, as a prayer for the restoration of the city and temple worship that had been destroyed because of the sin of the nation, recognizing the value of the psalm as a corporate confession as well as a personal prayer for mercy.29

Exercise. For one of the psalms in this lesson -- or another psalm with a similar theme -- do one of the suggested exercises to help you experience the Psalms (www.jesuswalk.com/psalms/psalms-exercises.htm). These include such things as praying a psalm, meditating, reading to a shut-in, paraphrasing, writing your own psalm, singing, preparing a liturgy, and memorizing. Then report to the forum what the exercise meant to you personally or share what you've written with others.


O Lord, we have sinned. We have struggled with temptation. Teach us how to confess our sins before you. Teach us a broken and contrite heart, a humble spirit. Help us to walk before you in humility and find the protection of your presence around us. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.


  • "A Broken Spirit," words and music by Don Harris and Martin Nystrom (© 1993, Integrity's Hosanna! Music). Psalm 51:17.
  • "Change My Heart, O God," words and music by Eddie Espinosa (© 1982, Mercy Publishing). Psalm 51:10
  • "Create in Me a Clean Heart," author unknown. Psalm 51:10-12.
  • "Create in Me a Clean Heart," words and music by Brown Bannister (© 1982, Bases Loaded Music). Psalm 51:10-12.
  • "Create in Me," words and music by Mary Rice Hopkins (© 1989, Big Steps 4 U, Maranatha! Music. Psalm 51:10.
  • "Freely Forgiven," words and music by Bill Batstone (© 1984, Maranatha! Music). Psalm 32:1-6.
  • "Give Me a Clean Heart," words and music by Margaret J. Douroux (n.d.). Psalm 51:10.
  • "God Be Merciful to Me" (On thy grace I rest my plea), words and music by Christopher Miner and Richard Redhead (© 1998, Christopher Miner). Psalm 51.
  • "He Is Faithful," words and music by Walt Harrah (© 1986, Maranatha! Music). Psalm 32:1.
  • "Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee" (O hope of every contrite heart), words: Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century), Jesu dulcis memoria, translated by Edward Caswall (1849). Music: "St. Agnes," by John B. Dykes (1866).
  • "O Blessed Souls Are They," words: Isaac Watts (1719), music: "Pekin" arranged from a German carol by J.E. Kingsley (1847). Psalm 32.
  • "Precious Promise" (I Will Guide Thee), words: Nathaniel Niles (1873), music: Philip P. Bliss. Psalm 32:8.
  • "Refiner's Fire" (Purify my heart), words and music by Brian Doerksen (© 1990, Vineyard Songs Canada, ION Publishing). Psalm 51.
  • "Refresh My Heart," words and music by Geoff Bullock (© 1992, Word Music, LLC, Maranatha! Music). Psalm 51:10.
  • "Search Me, Know Me," words and music by Kathryn Scott and Mildred Rainey (© 2003, Vertical Worship Songs). Psalm 51:10
  • "Search Me, O God" (Cleanse Me), words by J. Edwin Orr (1936). Music: Maori tune. Psalm 52.1-2.
  • "Whiter than Snow," words: James Nicholson (1872), music: William G. Fischer (1872). Psalm 51:7.
  • "You Are My Hiding Place," words and music by Michael Ledner (© 1981 Maranatha! Music, Admin. by The Copyright Company). Psalm 32:7.


  1. G. Herbert Livingston, pāsha´, TWOT #1846a.
  2. G. Herbert Livingston, hātā´, TWOT #638e.
  3. Carl Schultz `āwā, TWOT #1577a.
  4. William White, rāmā, TWOT #2169a. Holladay sees two derivatives and thus two meanings for this word (I) "slackness, looseness" and (II) "deceit" (340b).
  5. Walter C. Kaiser, nāśā´, TWOT #1421.
  6. R. Laird Harris, kāsā, TWOT #1008.
  7. Yāda`, Holladay 129b.
  8. Ralph H. Alexander, yādā, TWOT #847.
  9. R. D. Patterson, sātar, TWOT #1551a.
  10. Edwin Yamauchi, ḥānan, TWOT #694.
  11. R. Laird Harris, ḥesed, TWOT #698.
  12. Leonard J. Coppes, rāḥam, TWOT #2146a.
  13. Walter C. Kaiser, māḥā, TWOT #1178.
  14. KB, p. 422, cited in John N. Oswalt, kābas, TWOT #946.
  15. Edwin Yamauchi, ṭāhēr, TWOT #792.
  16. (Do) evil (ra`), "evil, distress, wickedness," the opposite of good (G. Herbert Livingston, rā`a`, TWOT #2191a).
  17. The noun ṭūḥōt describes an object "covered over, hidden, or concealed," carrying the idea of the inner being of a person covered up by the body (Ralph H. Alexander, tûaḥ, TWOT #795b). The parallel idea in 6b is of an "inmost place" (NIV), "hidden part" (KJV), "secret heart" (NRSV), from the word sātam, "stop up, shut up, keep close" (sātam, TWOT #1550). In the New Testament Paul talks about the "inner being" (Romans 7:22), the "new self" (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:9). Peter uses the expression of "the inner self" (NIV, 1 Peter 3:4) or "the hidden man of the heart" (KJV).
  18. The verb ḥāṭā´ which means "sin, miss the way" in the Qal stem, means in the Piel and Hithpael stems "to make a sin offering" or a cleansing or purifying ceremony during which sin is done away with. G. Herbert Livingston, ḥāṭā´, TWOT #638. See Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4-6, 49-52; Numbers 19:6, 17-19; Hebrews 9:19; John 19:29.
  19. Herbert Wolf, ´ēzōb, TWOT #55.
  20. Shûb, BDB 999, Hiphil 1d.
  21. Thomas E. McComiskey, bārā´, TWOT #278. A different synonym for "create," is yāsar, which suggests "to fashion, to shape something new."
  22. Edwin Yamauchi, ṭāhēr, TWOT #792.
  23. Carl Philip Weber, ḥādash, TWOT #613.
  24. John N. Oswalt, kûh, TWOT #964. "The root meaning is to bring something into being with the consequence that its existence is a certainty."
  25. Leonard J. Coppes, nādab, TWOT #1299b.
  26. Bloodguilt (dām, "blood") was the sin of shedding innocent blood, considered a mortal sin. In David's case, he had ordered the death of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband. TWOT #436; BDB 197, g.
  27. Herbert Wolf, dākă, TWOT #428.
  28. Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100 (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 20; Word, 1990), pp. 28.
  29. So Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 194; and Tate, Psalms 51-100, pp. 29-30. Franz Delitzsch (Keil and Delitzsch 5:141-143) defends Davidic authorship of these verses.

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